The Terrafugia Transition "roadable" aircraft – a stylish combination of light aeroplane and car – has been granted useful exemptions by the US Department of Transportation.
It's a car. It can fly. What else do you want? Well, VTOL, silence, robopilot ...
Following representations by Terrafugia to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it has been agreed that production Transitions can use "tires that are appropriately rated for highway speeds and the vehicle weight". They will also be allowed to substitute lightweight polycarbonate windows for traditional automotive safety glass, which is not only heavy but could shatter in such a way as to obscure a pilot's vision in an airborne bird-strike situation.
It had been hoped that Transitions would be delivered from 2009, but Terrafugia has been dogged by delays. A proof-of-concept vehicle did fly in 2009 (pictured) but test results were evidently not all that one might wish as a major redesign followed. New test machines are now being built, and the company has stated that production might commence this year.
Even if all goes to plan, the future of the Transition may not be as rosy as it once seemed. Despite a helpful weight exemption from the aerial feds, according to the new spec a fully-fuelled Transition will be able to lift only 330lb of passengers and payload: it can't get airborne carrying two normal American men. Also the price has ballooned from $148k to $250k.
The Transition is definitely a very cool idea, though, and unlike most flying cars it has actually flown. We here on the Reg flying-car-desk will continue to wish Terrafugia well.
The full text of the exemption as published in the Federal Register can be read online here in PDF. ®